‘HMS William & Mary’ sails into Greenwich, surrounded by smaller yachts and barges. To the right of the ship, the Royal Observatory at Greenwich (completed in 1676) can be seen on a hill in the distance. Below the observatory is the Queen’s House. In the extreme left background, Crowley House (begun in 1647) can be made out, with the tower of Trinity Hospital adjacent to it. On the right is the King’s House, or King Charles Block (built by the end of the 1660s), which later became part of the Royal Hospital at Greenwich. To the left of the King’s House are the ruins of the Old Palace of Greenwich.
‘HMS William & Mary’ was built for King William III at Chatham in 1694. From 1764 to 1766 it was at Deptford dockyard, undergoing a major refit. After the War of Spanish Succession (1701-1714) the ship was used as a Royal yacht. It was eventually sold for breaking in September 1801.
The view of the ‘William & Mary’ seen here is similar to one of the yachts in ‘The Royal Visit to the Fleet in the Thames Estuary, 5 June 1672’, painted by William van de Velde I, which may explain why it was previously attributed to van de Velde. It is now considered more likely to be associated with the circle of Isaac Sailmaker.
Marine painter Isaac Sailmaker, a contemporary of Willem van de Velde II, may have been named after an earlier occupation. He is thought to have been born in Scheveningen in the Netherlands and came to England as a young man to work for Flemish portraitist and dealer Georg Geldorp. Sailmaker received commissions from Oliver Cromwell and Colonel John Lovett, MP. His paintings included ship portraits, actions of the English fleet and historical subjects, sometimes including imagery features. Very few paintings by him are signed and this has led to some uncertainty in attributing works to his hand. When he died in London he was in his late eighties.
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